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Smokers (and ex-smokers) wanted for lung cancer screening study

When it comes to cancer, lung cancer may be the worst.  It’s the biggest cancer killer, ending the lives of over 1600 Alberta men and women every year.  The reason it’s so deadly?  Too often, the disease is diagnosed far too late.

“By the time someone has symptoms of lung cancer, it’s often late in the game,” said Dr. Alain Tremblay, a researcher at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. “In advanced stages, only one out of six of our patients will be cured.”

Early detection can dramatically improve those numbers.   Tremblay said when caught early, 90% of patients can be cured.  It’s why researchers in Calgary and Edmonton are working to develop a screening program, that can identify cancer cases  early enough to save lives.

“Screening has the potential to reduce the number of deaths, but the challenge is to determine who is most at risk.”

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Researchers plan to explore risk factors including smoking history, family history of cancer, ethnicity and even education level to determine who should undergo annual low-dose CT scans.

“We hope that over time we’ll be able to grow this into a full scale provincial screening program,” said Tremblay.

Researchers are looking to enroll a total of 800 people in the study.  So far, 100 people have been screened with early stage cancer detected in one participant. Fortunately that person was able to have the early stage tumour removed and is expected to fully recover.

60 year old, Mark Kost is participating as well.  Kost has smoked for 40 years, lung cancer he says, is always in the back of his mind.

“When you’re 20 or 30 you’re bulletproof and nothing is ever going to happen to you,” said Kost.

“As you get to be 60 and the warranty runs out you start to  worry about what you’ve been doing to yourself.”

Kost’s CT scan came back negative for lung cancer but he will be followed as part of the study for the next 3 years, receiving additional scans every year.

Smokers and ex-smokers between the ages of 55 and 80 may be eligible to participate in this study.  For more information visit www.ucalgary.ca/lungscreening  or call 403-210-6862 or 1-844-210-6862

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